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Be Prepared for Tornadoes

tornadoTornado season is once again upon us. Businesses should prepare for the possibilities of tornadoes by creating an emergency plan to try to keep employees as safe as possible. A good emergency plan should include such details as where to take shelter and accounting for all personnel. Consideration should also be given to any hazardous materials that are on the premises.

Basements or storm cellars, or other underground areas provide the best shelter from a tornado. If no such underground shelter is available, then an interior room or hallway on the first floor of a building, away from doors, windows, or outside walls is best. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, or cafeterias, with wide, flat roofs.

If caught outdoors, personnel should see out a sturdy building or basement. If no building is within walking distance, one can try to drive to a nearby shelter. To protect oneself from flying debris if driving, either stay in the vehicle with seat belt on, covering your head with your hands or a blanket. If a low area such as a ditch is near, lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Within the workplace, procedures should be developed to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes. An emergency plan should include a system for knowing and accounting for who is in the building at the time of an emergency.  A plan should be created to communicate emergency warnings to employees with limited English speaking skills, and also employees with disabilities. As employees and visitors or customers enter the shelter area, take a head count or use a checklist to account for everyone. The plan should include assigning responsibilities to workers during an emergency, with alternate employees for backup as well. Workers should be trained and the plan practiced so that everyone will know what to do in case of an actual emergency.

An emergency supply kit should be kept on hand. Some basic items to include are a NOAA Weather Radio, and other battery powered radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, dust masks, plastic sheeting and duct tape, and a three day supply of food and water. A more complete list of items to include in an emergency disaster kit can be found at http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1390846764394-dc08e309debe561d866b05ac84daf1ee/checklist_2014.pdf.

More detailed information and resources on how to prepare for tornadoes is available in both English and Spanish on the OSHA website at http://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/tornado/index.html.  Information on tornado response and cleanup is also available on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/emres/tornado.html